Sunday 26 March 2017

Deal 'elevates' players to new level - Farrell

GPA chief hails increased influence written into €6.2m annual deal with GAA

GPA CEO Dessie Farrell and GPA chairman Séamus Hickey at the announcement of the GAA and GPA framework agreement 2017-2019 in Croke Park. Picture Credit: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
GPA CEO Dessie Farrell and GPA chairman Séamus Hickey at the announcement of the GAA and GPA framework agreement 2017-2019 in Croke Park. Picture Credit: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Go to enough of these launches in Croke Park and you notice even the little changes.

At yesterday's announcement that the GAA and GPA had reached an agreement on the terms of their agreement up to 2019, GAA director general Páraic Duffy and president Aogán Ó Fearghail sat at the top table alongside GPA representatives Dessie Farrell and Seamus Hickey.

Read More: Confirmed: GAA and GPA strike deal on €6m annual partnership

Usually at such things, the main players are rolled out to the media for separate interviews. But in a break from the norm, all four remained at the top table as they were peppered with questions.

Perhaps they were eager to present a united front. And all were keen to stress that both sides were happy with the new agreement. But it was hard to leave Croke Park with any feeling other than the arrangement was a significant win for the GPA.

Figures

The headline figures, as revealed in yesterday's Irish Independent, show that players will be better looked after than ever before under a deal worth around €6.2m per annum.

Much of the fine detail is yet to be thrashed out, but players individually and the GPA as an organisation have secured significant gains in a variety of areas.

Mileage will increase from 50c to between 62.5c and 65c a mile for players. County boards will continue to pay at a rate of up to 50c a mile, with central funds covering the difference. The 50c rate had been in place since 2001 but, as it stands, that increase doesn't extend to county board officers.

A new 'nutrition allowance' will be paid to intercounty players. It will be distributed based on a sliding scale depending on how long a player remains in the championship, with the total fund of €1.2m available to the entire intercounty playing body. The GAA, rather than the GPA, will distribute this money to players through various county boards.

But perhaps the most significant gain for the GPA comes with the GAA's commitment to hand over a percentage of all central commercial revenue to the players' body.

At the outset of its official relationship with the players' body, the GAA had stated it "cannot provide funding for any unit or body based purely on a fixed percentage of annual income" but yesterday's deal guarantees them 15pc or €2.5m - whichever is higher - of all revenue the GAA generate from areas such as broadcast rights, sponsorship and licensing.

And Duffy insisted there was support for the U-turn from Central Council.

"The first time, we were starting, we hadn't done a deal with the GPA before," Duffy said of the policy shift. "We're five years in. We think it's fair for everybody if our commercial revenues grow or if they decline then, I think it's very fair.

"It is different. We're all very happy with that. The important point to make is that this document was put before Central Council on Saturday, it was debated at length, every aspect of it and there was unanimous support for it, all aspects of it."

There were other gains for the GPA too. An additional €800,000 will be provided to the GPA for the various services it provides to players, many of which Farrell stated were "over-subscribed."

A further €200,000 will be ring fenced for to provide "surgical interventions" for former intercounty players.

And Farrell agreed that the deal was a "significant step forward".

"It elevates the players' status to a new level," Farrell said. "There's a lot of practical support contained within this.

"Then the commercial link, the GAA's commercial success will be linked to our programmes, a significant step forward and a milestone, so all told players I think will be very happy with this."

The deal also gives the GPA a higher level of influence within the GAA, something Farrell said would be "widely welcomed". They will have an additional delegate at Congress and will also have the right to bring one motion to Congress annually. The bodies will also have a member sit on one another's finance committees.

For Farrell, the deal represents a greater level of trust between the GPA and GAA.

"The first time around it was all very new to everybody. There's no doubt that as a players' association we needed to prove our bone fides in a whole host of different areas. I think over the five years we've done that, I think what we have in place now is a productive working relationship," he said.

"We've matured as an organisation and I think the GAA have been able to reflect on that in a very positive manner through this agreement. I think the outcome here is indicative of what we have in place, that trust and that great working relationship."

 

GAA/GPA deal - the key points

Enhanced input into policy decisions

 - GPA to have additional delegate to Congress along with Ard Chomhairle Rep

 - GPA to have right to submit one motion to Congress annually

 - Creation of a Policy Forum to discuss issues of concern and relevance to GPA

 

Demands on senior inter-county players

 - New working group of players and administrators established to examine demands on players

 

Expenses and reimbursement

 - Review of current document on expenses/gear for approval by Central Council this November

 - Mileage Rate: increase for inter-county players to between 62.5c and 65c per mile (to a maximum total cost of €1.5m)

 - New refundable and vouched nutrition expense (to the amount of €1.2m per year) to be introduced

 - €200,000 to be set aside each year to deal with surgical interventions for ex-inter-county players

 - Cost of increases to mainly come from central GAA funding - Central Council to ring-fence funding to counties to assist with these additional costs

 

Core Funding of the GPA - Provision of Welfare/Development Services

 - GAA to provide €2.5m or 15pc of net central commercial revenue (whichever is higher) each year - in 2015 agreement this figure was €2.0m

 - GPA to present outline budget to Central Council annually

 - GAA will nominate a member to the GPA's Finance Committee and vice versa

 

Commercial Partnership (Le Chéile) to be revamped

 - GAA to guarantee additional €800,000 p/a from it to GPA for Player Services

 - All GPA commercial activities will be undertaken through this body only

 - All other GPA fundraising limited to dinners etc. in Ireland and overseas

Irish Independent

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